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Police and Crime Commissioner says public consent needed for any use of live facial recognition technology in Kent

Public consent must be gained before facial recognition technology can be deployed by law enforcement in Kent, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said.

Last year Kent Police was revealed to be in talks with the Home Office about trialling the system to help find missing and vulnerable people.

Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott says public consent must be sought for use of facial recognition technology
Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott says public consent must be sought for use of facial recognition technology

However, in the 12 months since, no such trial has been completed, and the force has said tests need to be carried out to ensure the technology is both "safe and reliable".

PCC Matthew Scott says that, much like when CCTV was first introduced, there needed to be a process of securing the public's support for the new systems.

"There are five tests that apply to facial recognition," he said. "You need to be clear about what it's for, you need the support of the public, you need to know how accurate it is so that you are not reading false positives, what outcome you are trying to achieve, and how do you review its effectiveness and prevent it from being abused.

"I think if it satisfies those key tests I'd be quite happy for them to consider using it more widely. But as I say, it does have to have the support of the public."

Mr Scott believes the live monitoring of images could be useful in identifying suspects in the aftermath of a major incident, but said the case for using it would depend on the consent of people in the county.

Watch: Last year we asked the public for their views on the technology

He said: "The public have been supportive of the approach showed for a number of years with regard to CCTV, which has been live-monitored in the past, and I think people accept it helps us to prevent crime.

"But this new type of technology, I think you have to make the argument all over again, if it is something we want to use and bring people along with you."

A report into a trial of live facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan Police (MPS) concluded it is "an effective policing tool that helps the MPS stop dangerous offenders and make London a safer place". However civil liberties groups have expressed concerns about people being unwittingly targeted by the cameras.

Det Ch Supt Tom Richards said: "Kent Police continues to engage with the Home Office about the use of facial recognition technology however a specific trial to use the software in helping to locate missing people has not yet been carried out.

"It is important that we test how safe and reliable the software is first before we can be sure of its potential use within the force, whilst considering the outcomes from other trials around the country.

"There are no plans to use ‘live’ facial recognition software and the people of Kent should be assured that as a force that has been graded as ‘outstanding’ for legitimacy for four years in a row by the independent policing inspectorate, should future use of facial recognition technology warrant it, a full and proportionate public consultation would take place."

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